Weblog: The football punter

Reds can overcome their Barcelona blues at Toon

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One luckless night at Camp Nou has got Liverpool fans fearing yet another trophyless season is on the horizon but a routine romp at Newcastle should put a smile back on their faces.

Liverpool’s best away performance in two years, according to Jurgen Klopp and many others, might not have been good enough to put a dent in Barcelona on Wednesday, but it’s going to take a lot less than that to secure three points on Tyneside.

Yes, Newcastle under ex-Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez have found a bit of form and St James’ Park hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Merseysiders down the years.

But Klopp’s class act haven’t lost to an English side in four months, had won ten in a row before their 3-0 defeat at Barca, and should, on the evidence of everything we’ve seen this season, be far too good for opponents they are 49 points superior to.

Double-figure odds about the hosts might raise eyebrows, and the Geordies have won six of their last seven at home, a sequence which includes a 2-1 success over Manchester City.

That was a charmless backs-to-the-walls effort from the Magpies, who chalked up just one corner, had two shots on target and just 24 per cent possession, stats that are likely to be repeated in this game.

So why can’t lightning strike twice? The Benitez route map to success isn’t going to change and they are going to make stubborn adversaries but Liverpool are likely to wear them down, hence the prospect of the Draw-Liverpool double result looking a decent shout.

That bet has delivered in three of their last four outings, the exception being the 5-0 drubbing of Huddersfield which ought not to count as a competitive game.

What their previous three wins – two-goal triumphs over Southampton, Chelsea and Cardiff – tell us, is that Liverpool boast the patience because they know they boast the goal power. They will outlast teams, even teams whose defences are manned as impressively as Newcastle’s will be. The visitors have scored 49 second-half goals this season.

Indeed, the Barcelona defeat ought to be a result which encourages Liverpool rather than sends them into their shell.

To be able to match (and better at times) one of Europe’s best, on away soil, deserves untold credit.

Sadio Mane and Mo Salah spurned chances but both are in top form. Mane has bagged 16 since the turn of the year and Salah five in his last seven after a barren run. And their other players are stepping up – they have won seven in a row in the league and scored at least twice in each of those.

Newcastle are unbeaten in three with wins over Leicester and Saints preceding a 1-1 draw at Brighton where they dropped off badly in the second half.

They will be pleased that the in-form Ayoze Perez is fit though he’ll be back-pedalling in pursuit of Andy Robertson rather than offering much of a threat going the other way.

Draw-Liverpool double result

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Match in Focus

20:00 TODAY BT2

Napoli v Liverpool

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  • Liverpool have lost six of their last eight Champions League away games
Expert verdict
Liverpool begin their Champions League title defence with a return to the scene of one of the four away defeats they suffered on their way to winning last season’s competition. The Reds were beaten 1-0 at the Stadio San Paolo in the group stage last October and, as the Partenopei have lost three times in their last 19 home fixtures in the competition, their run of six defeats in eight UCL away games is a concern. However, they rarely fail to deliver in the final third, netting in all but four of their last 42 competitive matches.